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Cable on Climate Science

Via the Union of Concerned Scientists:

CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC are the most widely watched cable news networks in the U.S. Their coverage of climate change is an influential source of information for the public and policy makers alike.

To gauge how accurately these networks inform their audiences about climate change, UCS analyzed the networks’ climate science coverage in 2013 and found that each network treated climate science very differently.

Fox News was the least accurate; 72 percent of its 2013 climate science-related segments contained misleading statements. CNN was in the middle, with about a third of segments featuring misleading statements. MSNBC was the most accurate, with only eight percent of segments containing misleading statements.

Read the overview here, or jump to the study here (PDF).

Images: Science or Spin?: Assessing the Accuracy of Cable News Coverage of Climate Science, via Union of Concerned Scientists


The Hungry Microbiome — Christian Stolte, Christopher Hammang (CSIRO Computational Informatics, Sydney, Australia).

Created for the animation “The Hungry Microbiome”, this study shows resistant starch granules and the bacteria which break them down floating above the surface of the colon. At the bottom, a cut-away view of crypts shows the absorption of butyrate (shown as light blue particles), which is a byproduct of the bacteria and the main energy source of the cells in our colon. A steady supply of butyrate helps to detect mutations and prevent cancer. The main point of this study was to develop an interesting lighting scheme for this scene. 



Living Fossils

Located in Hamelin’s Pool, a shallow area of Shark Bay in Western Australia, these odd formations aren’t rocks—they’re stromatolites, and they were built over millennia by single-celled cyanobacteria (also known as blue-green algae). 4,000 to 6,000 years ago, a huge bank of seagrass began to block the tidal flow into Hamelin’s Pool, which meant that the water became twice as salty as the open ocean. Animals like snails and chitons that would usually feed on the algae couldn’t survive, so the blue-green algae began to flourish. Gathered in colonies, they trapped sediment with their sticky surface coatings. This sediment reacted with calcium carbonate in the water and formed limestone, essentially creating a living fossil—this limestone is alive, its top surface layer teeming with active cyanobacteria. The limestone builds up slowly at a rate of about 1mm per year. The stromatolites in Shark Bay are estimated to be between 3,000 and 2,000 years old, but they’re similar to life forms in Precambrian times, 3.5 billion years ago, at the dawn of complex organisms. There are over 50 kinds of cyanobacteria in Shark Bay, and one is thought to have descended from an organism that lived nearly 2 million years ago, making it a part of one of the longest biological lineages.

(Image Credit: 1, 2)

I normally abhor the term “living fossil” but I’ll let it slide this time because AWESOME. Like little prokaryotic time capsules.


How Being Ignored Helped A Woman Discover The Breast Cancer Gene

Sometimes now it’s tough for women in science to be heard and believed. Thirty years ago, it was even worse

But that didn’t stop geneticist Mary-Claire King from making one of the most important discoveries in breast cancer research.

Back in the 1970s, King decided she needed to figure out why women in some families were much more likely to get breast cancer.

It took 17 years for King and her colleague to identify the single gene that could cause both breast and ovarian cancer. During that time, many people discounted her work, saying that genes couldn’t cause complex diseases like cancer. She proved them wrong, first by mapping the gene’s location, and then in 1994, by announcing that her laboratory had successfully cloned the BRCA1 gene. (King describes her experience in Thursday’s issue of the journalScience.)

The discovery revolutionized genetics and cancer treatment. Simple genetic tests now let women know if they have mutations in their BRCA genes that increase cancer risk. They then can act on that knowledge, as actress Angelina Jolie did.

King, now a professor of genome science at the University of Washington, talked with NPR’s Audie Cornish on Thursday about how she slowly but surely built evidence to prove that BRCA did indeed cause cancer.

Continue reading.

Photo: Geneticist Mary-Claire King says obscurity gave her the freedom to spend years looking for breast cancer genes. (Mary Levin/University of Washington)

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